New documents released by Britain’s National Archives reveal a speech prepared on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, in 1983, to be delivered if the world have descended into nuclear war. With the Cold War constantly threatening to turn hot, this type of catastrophic event could never be fully ruled out.
Preparing these types of contingencies is a responsibility all of our leaders must accept; anticipating outcomes too grim for the public at large to consider; and that even the best planned events, programs, and negotiations can becomes a crisis at any moment. The public rarely gets to glimpse the thoughts or words Presidents and Queens would offer at such a time, unless a crisis comes to pass.
In her speech, Queen Elizabeth called addressing the public on such an occasion a “solemn and awful duty.”
President Nixon also took on this duty, having a speech prepared if the astronauts of Apollo XI became trapped on the moon.
In a memo to H.R. Haldeman, Bill Safire—speechwriter for the President—sent the following draft:
IN THE EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon the explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
Friend of the Nixon Foundation and recent guest, Apollo XI astronaut Buzz Aldrin spoke about how he became involved with NASA and the space program. Just prior to training as an astronaut, the selection process for astronauts required experience as a test pilot, which underscores the unpredictable nature of space travel, and the type of person it took to be successful in that unknown, and dangerous environment.